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During World War II, RAAF operations at Cairns consisted of two major elements. Flying boats operated from the base at the coast, and Nos 11 and 20 Squadrons flew long-range missions against Japanese shipping and submarines from late 1942 until September 1944. At the Cairns airfield, a variety of RAAF units transited through the base, and it was also an important staging airfield for Allied units heading to the South-West Pacific theatre of operations.

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